“He who is kind to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will reward him for what he has done”. Proverbs 19:17
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“He who gives to the poor will lack nothing, but he who closes his eyes to them receives many curses”. Proverbs 28:27
“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” Proverbs 31:8-9
Many of us would like to help the poor. Christians are frequently called to help the poor. However, our difficulty is in answering the ‘what' question – what is the best way for me to help the poor?
Many times we think that generosity is the key to helping people. However, I believe that generosity coupled with discernment is essential. This post is a guide to those who are generous and want to be sure that their ‘helping’ is helping.
Here are ten things to keep in mind when you’re involved in a helping ministry:
- Helping is about what is best, not what is easiest. There are occasions where giving something is the easiest action. Unfortunately, many of those quick solutions have devastating long-term effects. Force yourself to do what is right, not just what is easy.
- Helping requires creativity, time, and energy. Often situations need to change before money will be of any value. That change only happens with a huge investment of resources other than money.
- Helping involves a lifelong commitment to reconsidering alternative efforts. No matter how good your intentions are (or how rich you are) you cannot solve someone's poverty issues in a moment.
- Helping demands prayerful dependence on the wisdom of God. Any of you who are directly involved in a benevolence ministry know that there are so many roadblocks and challenges along the way. Often times you are divided in your heart about which way is right. James 1:5 encourages us to ask God to give us the necessary wisdom.
- Helping means moving beyond ourselves and our cultural upbringing. Ron Sider, who is a strong advocate for the inner city poor, has taught me (through his books) to ask the question, “how does/will this impact the poor?” We should ask that question when discussing our family habits, our church programs, and our government policies.
- Helping always follows a change of heart and attitude. Many middle-class people have assumptions about the poor. There is a strong feeling that the rich are rich because of effort and the poor are poor because of laziness – no exceptions. When our hearts are hard towards the poor, our actions will also be equally cold.
- Helping requires you to learn a story. Your assumptions about the world’s poor cannot be eradicated until you first listen to ‘their’ story. ‘Their’ story is not one unified story, but a combined story of many individuals. Sit with the poor, ask, and then listen.
- Helping is an embodiment of the ministry of Jesus Christ. God has a heart for all people. The poor are no exception. How we minister to the poor is a sermon we preach. For our sakes Jesus became poor.
- Helping offers a voice to and speaks for the poor. One of the tragedies of poverty is the lack of voice. No one listens. Often, the poor have no voice. No one is willing to speak of the desires, dreams, frustrations, and concerns of the poor.
- Helping is about you, not me. Helping does bring a rewarding feeling, but we need to help because of the needs of another, not our own insecurity or need. When helping is about ‘you’ I am more likely to be able to reach out to you and your need.
Your first step:
Many of these ten items point to the necessity of being in the midst of the poor. There are many church and other non-profit organizations that have ministries to the poor. If you are not currently involved, you could volunteer. Through your involvement you will come to know the situations and challenges of the poor. In your conversations you will change, and your views might also change. Your money will be of better use to the poor when you better understand the situation of the poor.
What else do you think we need to keep in mind when it comes to helping?